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ATLANTIS & the Atlantic Ocean

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Author Topic: ATLANTIS & the Atlantic Ocean  (Read 37224 times)
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« Reply #270 on: December 27, 2008, 11:08:02 pm »

The islands are irregular in shape with most of the land sloping
upward towards the volcanic peaks. The sea coast has cliffs that are 
several hundred feet high. The lower shorelines have coves that
serve as harbors. Horta on the island of Faial has the best natural
harbor in the islands. There are fine harbors at Ponta Delgada on Sao
Miguel and Angra on Terceira.78 The water is deep offshore, from 1-
2 miles in most cases, reminding one that these islands are the tops
of a mountain range having great vertical relief.79 The water
between Pico and Faial is 300 feet deep which indicates that these
two islands were undoubtedly one island at one point.80

In the 1880's, American Lyman Weeks visited the islands and
describes vividly what he saw:

   The shore is high and precipitous, and dangerous headlands
   project outward  in all directions; while reefs of hoary rocks,
   spume-covered and washed by  angry waves, form a protecting
   cordon about the land. Over the edges of dark  sea-cliffs, little
   rivulets, like silver threads upon cloth of a frieze, trickle  down
   into the ocean. The fields are crossed and recrossed with
   hedges of bamboo,  which divide the land into a regular
   checker-work of cultivation and pasturage.  Groups of white
   buildings, with a steepled church always in the midst, occupy
   the most conspicuos locations.81 

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« Reply #271 on: December 27, 2008, 11:08:52 pm »


Azorean climate is temperate having temperatures usually between
75 to 50 degrees F.82 There is a band of high pressure, called the
"Azores High," which keeps storms away from the islands.83 The
ocean currents run clockwise around the northern Atlantic with the
warm Gulf Stream helping to keep the Azorean climate mild.84

Average rainfall varies with each island. For example, Flores receives
54.8 inches of rain a year while Sao Miguel gets 28.7. Humidity
averages about 75% throughout the islands with a normal range from
59% to 99%.85 Snow covers Alto Pico during the colder winter
months, a time for storms and heavy winds. Corvo and Flores in the
western part of the island chain get polar fronts that swing through
leaving heavy rain.86 Tropical cyclones and hurricanes have
pummeled the islands during September and October when low
pressure allows them through.87 One such hurricane struck the
islands on August 30, 1857. At the American consulate in Horta, J.P.
Dabney describes what he witnessed:

   About nine o'clock the wind shifted suddenly from W. to N.N.W.
   and in a short   time the hurricane was upon us. For about two
   and a half hours it blew as I   never saw it blow before. The
   Bay with the wind off shore was one white mass   of foam, and
   at times the vessels were almost swallowed up in spray . . . The   
   growth and labor of years destroyed in one moment! I never
   saw such a wreck!   Some paths were impassable from the
   trees that had fallen across them and   over one hundred pine
   trees were broken short off . . . the corn laid flat on   the
   ground, in every direction . . . the poor farmers seem in despair
   and yet    they never murmur.88   

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« Reply #272 on: December 27, 2008, 11:09:15 pm »

The Shaking, Spewing Earth

The Azores is a lively place to be. There is a continuous chain of
earthquakes and volcanic activity that has had a great effect on its
inhabitants. Many of them have left the islands in horror after
witnessing one of these catacylysmic events. But disasters are bound
to happen when a volcanic environment is home for thousands of
human beings.89

A warning of such calamity was signaled early in man's history on
the islands. When Cabral discovered Sao Miguel in 1444, he saw two
volcanic mountains, one at each end of the island. The next year
when he returned with supplies and additional settlers, he noticed
something was wrong. The western mountain was completely gone!
When he landed, he questioned the men he left behind from the
previous voyage, and found that during his absence, earthquakes
followed by volcanic explosions, collasped the crater. The years that
followed were labeled "the years of the ashes" because ash could be
found several feet deep on parts of the islands, and ash impeded
ocean traffic hundreds of miles at sea. The collasped crater at Sao
Miguel over the centuries has filled with rainwater forming two
lakes, and next to the lakes, a village can be found which was given
the mythological name, Sete Ciadades, or Seven Cities.90

There have been 21 major volcanic eruptions in the past 550 years
collectively occurring on the islands of Sao Miguel, Terceira, Pico, Sao
Jorge, and Faial.91 In 1562, there was an eruption on Pico causing the
residents to flee in horror to the other islands. In 1580, on Sao Jorge,
12 people and 4,000 head of cattle were killed.92 In 1630, on Sao
Miguel, 200 people were killed and numerous cattle during an
eruption. In 1811 an volcanic islet, one mile in length, formed off the
coast of Sao Miguel. A British Union Jack was planted on it claiming it
for Great Britain. But the protruding islet sank back into the sea
taking the British flag with it.93 As late as 1957, another volcanic
islet arose off the coast of Faial, but this one connected to the island
destroying a lighthouse in the process.94 As one can see, the Azores is
a living volcanic nightmare that has violently made itself known
often through the island chain's history much to the detriment of its

This was reported in 1862 during a period of earthquakes and volcanic explosions:

   One hundred and twenty shocks occurred within ten days. They were not
   violent, but distressing to the inhabitants, most of whom left their houses,
   and betook themselves to tents. They lived in momentary expectation of an
   eruption, not knowing where or when it might burst forth . . . the people on
   the western slopes of the island, believing the sea to be on fire, and the end of
   the world at hand, got out their images of the saints, and chanted and
   prayed, night and day on the cliffs.95 

They placed crowns, used in the Holy Ghost festival, on altars, hoping
to soothe the anger of the belching earth and anxiously recited
verses like this one found in the annals Azorean folklore:

   The earth on fire shook
   Oh what distress and fear!
   To placate the volcano
   The blessed Crown brought near.96   
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« Reply #273 on: December 27, 2008, 11:09:37 pm »

Thomas Hickling, on the island of Sao Miguel, wrote this on February
28, 1811:

   We were much alarmed by frequent shocks of earthquakes, perhaps upwards of
   twenty . . . a volcano had broken out in the sea. I repaired immediately to that
   part of the Island and to my utter astonishment saw a vast column of black
   smoke issuing out of the ocean. The wind was a gale from the southward and
   blew smoke over the land . . . at various times times through the night, fire
   issue forth like a number of rockets discharged together. Large masses of
   stone and lava were continually thrown above the surface of the sea . . . In
   eight days it entirely subsided leaving a shoal on which the sea breaks.97

Mr. John P. Dabney, American Consul, recorded this about an eruption
on the island of Pico in 1808:

   The large Crater . . .  burst forth like a roaring Lion with horrible bellowings
   distinctly heard twelve leagues distant, throwing up prodigious large stones
   and lava and illuminating at night the whole Island . . . The lava inundated and
   swept away the Town of Ursulina and the country houses and cottages adjacent
   as well as the farm houses throughout its course. It as usual gave timely notice
   of its approach and most of the inhabitants fled. Some of them however remained
   in the vicinity too long, endeavouring to save their effects and were scalded by
   the flashes from its stream, which without injuring their clothes took not only
   their skin but their flesh; about sixty people were thus miserbly scalded, some
   of whom died on the spot, others soon after, and some recovered . . . In short,
   this Island heretofore rich in Corn, Cattle and vineyards for exportation, is
   nearly ruined and a scene of greater desolation and distress has seldom been
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« Reply #274 on: December 27, 2008, 11:09:49 pm »

The earthquakes have been just as destructive. There have been 18
major temblors on the islands in recorded history.99 One such quake
took place in 1522 when the entire village of Villa Franca, on Sao
Miguel island, having 5,000 residents, and being the center of
government, was engulfed within sixty seconds by land mass thrown
from a hill behind the village. It caused a tidal wave and other
destruction in the adjascent islands. It took a year to dig the village
out and to give Christian burials to its 5,000 victims.100

As recently as 1980, a massive earthquake underneath the ocean
near the islands of Sao Jorge, Terceira, and Graciosa took 60 lives;
destroyed 5,278 homes, 32 churches, 6,000 other structures; and
made 21,296 people homeless.101 

This litany of volcanic and earthquake disaster, has indelibly burned
itself into the psyche of the Azorean people. Some remain on the
islands with courage and determination, depending upon their
religious faith to see them through, while others emigrate and with
good reason.

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« Reply #275 on: December 27, 2008, 11:10:11 pm »

But They are Beautiful!

The Azores islands are like the mythical sirens sailors believe in,
always dangerously beautiful. Most immigrants leave the Azores
with the idea of returning to their verdant isles with their majestic
cliffs, charming villages, and whitewashed homes glistening in the
sun. Many do return, but usually just to visit. However, a few do
make the islands their retirement home after working in the United
States for decades. They have their well-earned social security
checks sent to them.

There is a longing in the Azorean emigrant's heart for the home
islands. It is called "saudades," a Portuguese word which has no
English equivalent. It can be defined best as "nostagia," a yearning
deep within one's soul for the past. One of the highest compliments
one can pay is to say "muitas saudades" to someone.102 

Each of the nine islands has its own particular charm. Santa
Maria has 20,000 acres of fertile volcanic soil and three mountains
that rise to 1,900, 1720, and 780 feet.103 Sao Miguel is the largest
island and is called the "Green Island" because of the lushness of its
vegetation. It has a large crater named the Grand Cauldron which is
10 miles in circumference. Also, there is the Valley of Furnas with its
hot springs and therapeutic baths.104 

Terceira is the largest of the central group of five islands and is oval
in shape, undoubtedly a volcanic crater. It has mostly level terrain. It
has beaches and has a fine harbor at Angra.105 Another island is
Graciosa which means "gracious." It is not as mountainous and
wooded as the other islands, but it does have fine fertile soil. The
island of Pico is dominated by the large volanic peak of Pico Alto at
one end. It is rich in vegetation but lacks fresh water because it is
porous. Rainwater seeps quickly into its many cracks caused by
volcanic activity.106

Sao Jorge is a long slender island having 3,000 foot walls along its
northern sea coast. These headlands create dramatic waterfalls
during heavy rainfall. There are lush forests and pastures, and also
fine bays on the south coast.107 The island of Faial is dominated by a
large volcanic cone a few miles from its very picturesque city of
Horta.108 The island is profusely covered with clusters of white and
purple flowers of the  hydrangea. It has the majestic view from its
natural harbor of the 7,700 foot volcanic mountain Pico Alto which is
only 4 miles across the channel on the island of Pico. Faial gets its
name from the faya trees, that are like beech, which dominate the

The westernmost island is Flores which is mountainous, wooded, and
covered with flowers. It has eight lakes and six volcanic craters. It
has no good harbors because of its treacherous shores.110 Lastly is
Corvo, the smallest of the islands. Its name comes from the birds
found there. It is largely an extinct volcanic cone with few forests or
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« Reply #276 on: December 27, 2008, 11:10:30 pm »

Plants and Animals

What plants and animals found on this isolated archipelago were
brought by the wind, ocean currents, and bird migrations.112 At the
time of discovery, the islands had only sealife, birds, and plantlife.
Squalls brought insects and birds, such as, blackbirds, woodpigeons,
canaries, starlings, and buzzards.113 Sixty-three plants are unique to
the Azores and about 700 were introduced,114 such as, the magnolia,
eucalyptus, bamboo, palm, oak, tea, tobacco, banana, citrus, and
pine.115 Forests were depleted by the settlers for a variety of
purposes, and the brush burned off for pastureland. About 8.4% of
the islands or 69,025 remain wooded today.116 

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« Reply #277 on: December 27, 2008, 11:10:57 pm »


There are numerous varieties of agricultural crops on the
islands. Much of it is for subsistence, but major cash crops have been
tried, and just as many have failed because of disease or problems in
the world market. Sugar cane, citrus, grapes, and pastels have been
tried, and for one reason or another, lost their worth.

Pastels, or woad, was grown to produce blue and purple dyes, but
was replaced with indigo and brazilwood that were grown
elsewhere.117 Sugar cane caused a serious debacle between the
farmers and the government because of the revenue the government
and the rich took from the farmers.118 Tobacco was tried, but it
seriously depleted the soil. Tea couldn't compete with the growers in
the orient. Oranges were shipped in larged amounts, 500,000
annually, to England in the 1800's,119 but blight struck them, and the
industry never fully recovered. The same happened to grapes,
especially on Pico, where the quality wine of its wine was well-
known outside the Azores.120

The islands also produce grains, beans, flax, corn, sweet potatoes,
dairy products, and a variety of fruits, such as, figs, pears, apples,
peaches, and quinces.121 Domesticated animals, such as sheep, cattle,
hogs, and chickens have been raised for local useage.122 The islands
have rich volcanic soil, but there are no large tracts of unobstructed
land available. Lava and other volcanic deposits pose great obstacles.
Rocks are removed and used for fences since wood is scarce. In
reality they are  4 to 5 feet high walls which act as windbreaks,
sheltering vines and other fruits from the wind. They are stacked to
form rectangular fields of about 100 square feet. It is not unusual to
see corn or grape vines planted in the cracks between rocks because
very vestige of soil must be used in this volcanic littered land.123
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« Reply #278 on: December 27, 2008, 11:11:18 pm »

This was written in 1880's by an American visitor:
   Between the villages, sloping to the sea, lay broad and fertile fields; yams
   and sweet-potatoes, besides Indian corn, wheat, and other grains, beans,
   melons, squashes, and potatoes, as luxuriant as on the meadow-lands of the

The island of Sao Jorge has extensive pastureland for dairy cattle and
produces milk and cheese for the islands and some cheese for
exportation.125 Another island with daries is Terceira. It is common
for most Azorean families to have a family cow or two to provide the
household with milk, butter, and cheese.126 The Azores have mostly
holstein and shorthorn breeds.127 

There have been two ways to survive on the islands: one must fish,
or one must farm. Some combine the two out of necessity. Because of
the lack of good harbors, high coastal walls,  and the deep rolling seas
surrounding the islands, fishing has never been a major activity.
Consequently, agriculture has been practiced by nearly all of the
islanders for a livelihood.128   

Because of the lack of available land, farming has had to be
intensive.129 The land tenure system puts the farmer in
"perpetual leasehold," that is, he is virtually landless and must
lease land to farm. The rent is fixed, but unlike tenant farming where
the owner and the farmer share in profits and losses, the renter
takes the full impact of good and bad agricultural years. Leases are
hereditary, being passed along to subsequent generations, and the
leased lands can only be subdivided by permission of the owner.
Thus, as the population grows the opportunities dwindle for the
younger generation. In 1840, only 3% of the land was controlled by
the population.130 In 1965, 81.8% of the Azorean farms were 3 acres
or less, and 3.2% larger than 10 acres.131 

The peasant farming his small acreage for sustenance has no interest
or means to progress technologically. In the 1880's the status of
farming equipment found on the Azores was as this visitor saw it:
   Flax is extensively cultivated and used, yet a loom or spinning-wheel is a thing
   almost unknown . . . wheat is trodden out by oxen on a large circular threshing-
   floor, as in patriarchial times . . . In churning . . . still adhere to the traditional
   method of shaking the milk in an earthen vessel or burying it in a leathern bag
   in the ground until the butter comes. A large broad hoe with a short handle is
   universally employed in agricultural labors. Spades, shovels, and forks are
   tabooed as inventions of the foul fiend . . . The plough is the old Latin plough
   reproduced. It is of wood, the share alone being shod with iron. The ploughman
   rides to the field on his donkey, and then has a pair of oxen to do the work,
   while the donkey is turned loose into the hedge to wait. So it was in the days
   of Job, who tells us that "the oxen were ploughing and the asses feeding besides
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« Reply #279 on: December 27, 2008, 11:11:37 pm »

Resilient People

Hardship builds character. This is seen time and again throughout
history, and this aptly applies to the Azoreans. They have had
to survive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fierce storms, crop
disease, European wars, and pirate raids to name their greatest
challenges.133 Because of their isolation in the middle of the Atlantic,
they have had to be self-reliant, independent, and harmonious to

There are many descriptions of the Azorean's character and lifestyle
in the literature. Most of it is complimentary. Some of it is derogatory
and scathing which quite often comes from upper class travelers who
have little interest in the welfare of the peasant class. The following
are some of the opinions that represents both viewpoints.   

An American, Alice Baker, traveled to the Azores during the summer
in the early 1880's. She wrote this:
   The Portuguese peasant class is poor and often poverty-stricken though
   living under fairly favorable climate conditions; that they have a very low
   standard of living, dwelling in humble cottages which are sometimes
   uncleanly and usually devoid of the barest necessities, and eating the plainest
   of food; that they lack knowledge of hygiene and sanitation; that they are
   devout though somewhat less in parts of the mainland than on the islands;
   that their religious ideas are somewhat vague and associated with many
   superstitions; that their recreation is limited and semi-religious in some
   of its aspects; and that they are grossly ignorant, illiterate, often lacking
   in a desire for education, though not unintelligent . . . Quick intelligence,
   the dreamy melancholy, the slyness and love of intrigue, the wit and
   imagination are here and the power of expression in words . . . They are
   devoted to music, flowers, dance, and song.135

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« Reply #280 on: December 27, 2008, 11:11:55 pm »

Lawrence Oliver, himself an Azorean immigrant, describes his
people as they appeared to him:
   The Portuguese have always been liberty-loving race . . . They are adven-
   turous, courageous, natural pioneers. They are home lovers and home
   builders. Of a deeply religious nature, they support their and its needs.
   Although thrifty, they recognize the good things of life and when acquired,
   use them with moderation and good judgment. Seldom will their names
   be found on relief rolls and even less often on the records of our criminal

Mark Twain visited the Azores and wrote about the islands and its
people in his work Innocents Abroad. It must be remembered that
Twain's style is witty and satirical, and he uses forced humor at
times to entertain the reader. But still his comments are worth
hearing, if only because he is a giant in the observation of people. His
preoccupation with the donkey in the below passage comes a day
after his rigorous travel on the beast of burden:

   The community is eminently Portuguese -- that is to say, it is slow, poor,
   shiftless, sleepy, and  lazy . . . The people lie, and cheat the stranger,
   and are desperately ignorant, and have hardly any reverence for their dead.
   The latter trait shows how little better they are than the donkeys they eat
   and sleep with . . . The donkeys and the men, women, and children of a family,
   all eat and sleep in the same room, and are unclean, are ravaged by vermin,
   and are truly happy.137 
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« Reply #281 on: December 27, 2008, 11:12:33 pm »

Mostly Humble Abodes

Houses in the Azores are usually one-story made of black lava rock
cemented by limestone, a mineral found only on the island of Santa
Maria. The black rock is plastered over and then whitewashed. The
exterior of the house has tiles of white porcelain with designs in blue,
brown, green, or yellow for decoration. The tiles are from an
inherited handicraft coming from both the Moors and the Flemings.
The roofs are tiled in red, or thatched, and have no chimneys. The
islands' architecture shows strong Moorish decorative influence.138

The Azorean dwellings are usually one room, some have a loft, some
have a separate cooking area, and most have earth floors. There are
no windows, and those with them, have no glass. Their beds are
matresses of corn husks or silky fibre put in homespun linen ticks.
Most homes don't have a stove but will have a fireplace with a broad
stone shelf. Some do have stone ovens though. There is very little
furniture in the house, and the lighting is poor. Religious pictures can
be found hanging on the walls, as much as for decoration, as for
devotion to patron saints. Household cloths are the products of the
women living in the house. Farm animals are frequent visitors inside
the house mostly when they are seeking shelter during bad weather
or when the sun sets.139
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« Reply #282 on: December 27, 2008, 11:12:58 pm »

This was observed by a visitor at the turn of this century:
   When the Azorean peasant is hungry and needs a stew, he gathers a few faggots,
   places them on the ground, sets on the kettle or stew-pan, lights the fire; then
   when the dish is cooked the doors and windows are opened and the smoke allowed
   to escape. . . The morning light is sure to discover all the animals nestling in
   and about his bed, from the huge black pig and the tiny donkey, down to cats,
   dogs, sheep, and calves, half-starved hens, clean fat rats and cosmopolitan fleas.140

Azoreans eat stew, fish, cornbread, cabbage, and potatoes. Cornbread
and cheese with water is a meal. Pork saugages are ritually made
and are spicy.141 There are no wells; therefore, cisterns are used to
collect rainwater. If there is a drought, some islanders have to walk 6
to 8 miles to find spring water which is collected in wooden pots and
carried by Azorean women balanced on their heads.142 

Famine and hunger are always a concern, as witnessed by this account:

   On the island of Corvo in the Azores we lived a hand-to-mouth existence.
   Sometimes a hurricane came in and out of the North Atlantic and wiped
   out the corn crop. When that happened, there was real hunger. We rationed
   what we had and prayed a lot."143
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« Reply #283 on: December 27, 2008, 11:13:21 pm »


Last century the Azorean men dressed in coarse wool and linen
pants, shirts, and jackets, all homespun. Feet were bare while some
wore wooden shoes. A skull cap was worn with a tassel on top.
Azorean women used the same material for their clothing and wore
braided hair topped with a cap or handkerchief. They too were
barefooted.144 Some women wore a capote especially where the
Flemish influence was strong. A capote hasn't been worn on the
islands since the 1930's. It was a hooded cloak of dark blue
broadcloth brought to the Azores by the Flemish beguines, a lay-
religious group. This comment was made by a visitor in the
1870's: 145

   The strangest sight in Horta is the capote of the women, worn alike in summer
   and in the rainy season: this cloak is of heavy, dark-blue stuff, falling in
   massive folds to the ankles, and surmounted by a stupendous hood, stiffened
   with whalebone and buckram, and of astounding shape and size. Some pretty
   faces may occasionally be discerned under this grotesque guise.146 
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« Reply #284 on: December 27, 2008, 11:13:42 pm »

Urban Environment

Villages are the hubs of daily Azorean activity. Farmers work their
fields during the day and return to their village home in the evening.
Shops are plentiful. For example, in the 1880's, the city of Ponta
Delgada had 23 clothing stores, 6 apothecaries, 139 grocery or liquid
stores, 12 butcher shops, 8 ironsmiths, 15 bootmakers, and 8 tailors.
A hospital had 400 beds147. 

Mark Twain praised the Azoreans for their well-kept villages:
   Every street is handsomely paved . . . and the surface is neat and true as a
   floor . . . Everywhere are walls, walls, walls -- and all of them are tasteful
   and handsome -- eternally substantial . . . the town and the island are
   miracles of cleanliness.148

The dairymen lived in the villages but had to ride their horse or
donkey daily up to higher elevations to milk and care for their stock
as seen in this experience:

   I milked the cows every day while they were giving milk. We kept the cows
   in our pastures; which were five to seven miles from home. When they were
   five miles from home, I arose at three o'clock in the morning to get there
   at daybreak . . . I would milk the cows and return home with the milk about
   noon. I had lunch, rested for an hour, then went to work in the fields for the
   balance of the afternoon . . . In the Azores, the people own pieces of land that
   they have inherited. Sometimes the parents from whom they inherited lived
   far away, on the other side of the district, five, six, or seven miles from
   where the children lived. Each family, also, had, its own pasture for cows,
   sheep, or whatever else they possessed. This was the way it was with us.149    

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